Every August the local theatre ecology takes a break where most of the scene decamps up to Edinburgh to try their luck on the gambler mecca of the Fringe. For an audience used to the varied theatrical diet Bristol usually provides, pickings are slim. So, thank heavens than for Bad vs Evil, the new company from Harry Humberstone and Andrew Kingston, mainstays of the Wardrobe comedy scene. Taking up residency this August, with their first official show Vet. Detective. they have brought some of the anarchic Fringe energy found in the Scottish capital down to Bristol.
For anyone who has ever seen a Christmas show at the Old Market venue, or indeed Kirk vs Ming or Nachos from the same fertile imaginations, you know what to expect, plenty of silliness and spoofing of cultural mainstays; in this case everything from Luther to Ace Ventura and All Creatures Great and Small get a good roasting. Two detectives (and vets- it’s that kind of show), DCI Guy Man (Humberstone) and Anna Prentice (Lotte Allan) are on the hunt for a serial killer when a fox, seagull and hedgehog are offed in short succession. In their investigation they encounter everything from the gangland big shot Octopus, who constantly wants a ‘blowie’ to a femme fatale Swan ‘I’m related to royalty don’t you know’. To solve the crime these two initially disparate personalities, must learn to become friends as well as partners.
All the familiar detective tropes are ticked off, from falling for a key witness to a secret that may hold the answer to everything. This isn’t a show to think too hard about, instead its best to kick back with a beer and enjoy the heavy gag to minute content. In reality, this is a work that probably doesn’t hit the same heights as their best work, it lacks the manic set pieces that will make you laugh for weeks and is all a little bit too well behaved, it could do with pushing the anarchy further.
Yet the laughs keep coming, mostly from the accomplished playing from Humberstone and Allan. Humberstone is a bendy ball of charisma, turning his long angular frame into ever more ridiculous shapes and delivering ever more silly lines with a voice that delves further into the gravel. Allan meanwhile is a comic cosmos, whether portraying the horsey Prentice, or letting loose as the bubble blowing, twister playing big fish, or the seductive swansell in distress.
It may not be the company hitting their absolute heights but it knows what its audience wants having been versed over the past few years and plays all the hits. Like your favourite festival and a week by the pool, I’d expect it to become a summer institution.
Vet. Detective. Plays at the Wardrobe Theatre until the 18 August.